31 March 2011

The Rites of Spring

Five went to his first baseball practice.  Last night, the Captain got all his gear ready. Earlier in the week, he had gone shopping with Three and Five for the necessary items. Three got a new glove, bat, and cleats. Five got a bat, glove, batting helmet, and the most adorable underwear/cup combination I've ever seen. And mind you, I've seen a lot of jocks in this house.

The older boys never wore the combo, because they said it couldn't be properly adjusted. And we all know how they like to adjust their junk. Consequently, Two would wear three layers of protection before he even got into his football pants. First there was a silky layer, to wear under the UnderArmor girdle that held the hip, thigh, and tail pads. Then he would put his jock strap, containing the titanium cup, over the girdle, and adjust as needed. Let me tell you, each and every one of those layers got sweaty. Especially the titanium cup. The first time I pulled it out of the strap, I thought it had gotten wet in the shower. Nope. Eww.

The Captain had prepared Five for the discomfort associated with the wearin' o' the cup. Five decided he would give it a test run. He got into the gear, and had various family members punch him in the penis. He gave a thumbs up for the protective quality of the plastic, and then ran around to see how much it bothered him. After a few minutes, he decided he could live with it.

Five was very excited about practice. He had his bag packed and ready to go, and had even tucked a mini bottle of Gatorade inside. He asked Four to come watch him, so momentous was the occasion. Off we went to the school field. We weren't the first ones there (that never happens when I'm in charge), but Five was unintimidated. He ran down and introduced himself -first and last name-and lined up next to his friend to practice throwing. Four played on the gym set, and then I actually got him to work on his homework. I watched Five from afar, and responded to the Captain's inquiring text messages.

"I haven't even thrown a ball with him since last summer. How does he look?"
"Like he hasn't thrown a ball since last summer. And, like he's seven."
"No. Does he look like he hates it?"
"Nope. He's having fun."
"He's a conundrum, wrapped in a riddle."

Which is true; we can't figure him out. He won't go down the hall to the bathroom without turning on every available light source. He won't play in his room alone. And he absolutely will not go downstairs without company. But he'll run down and introduce himself to a coach he's never met, and throw a ball for thirty minutes, despite his initial bad form. Wonders never cease.

As the light was fading, the team practiced base-running. After each boy crossed home plate, they stopped and adjusted their cup. Some rituals begin early in life.

30 March 2011

You Can't Escape Me

Welcome to the continuing saga of social media saturation. I started the day with my latest email to the nice, younger man who is designing my calling cards. Okay, business cards. I am in the business of selling myself. But not in the same way that I could have when I was young, and that prominent business man wanted to keep me as his mistress. We have settled on a design, and I think it walks the fine line between whimsy and legitimacy with the confidence of a Victoria's Secret model. That is to say, it gets my point across with little more than swagger and a smile.

I wanted the card to include all the ways one can read, follow, or communicate with me. Therefore, I created a new facebook page for The Lone Woman Diaries. I've changed the title five times already, and I still think I'm leaning toward just The Lone Woman. Yep. Changed it again. After all, I, Megan Coakley, am The Lone Woman. And that will be about as close as I get to obtaining the rights to my own name on facebook.

Delia encountered this problem when she discovered she shared a name with a Mexican purse designer. Despite the odds, I am going to try and obtain my real name as my user name. However, facebook won't let me pick a user name until I have twenty-five people who "like" me, because my new page is set up as an "fan" page. So, I need you all to make like Twi-hards, and choose Team Megan. Go "like" The Lone Woman. (For the record, I am firmly entrenched in the Team Jacob camp. I prefer werewolves, and that boy is hot. Shut up. I know it's icky, and I don't care.)

So, now I have the blog, facebook, Twitter, and an unfinished manuscript. The good news, however, is that I will be going on a "working" vacation. One and I are going to Florida to see my mother. We leave at the end of the week, and will stay for six days. I can't wait. It's warm there, and MomMom and Pappou, as they are known to One, will dote on us. We'll do some low-key fun things, but mostly, One and I will be happy to sit at the Gulf. He loves nature, and I love the sun. It's a win-win.

While on vacation, I will be away from the blog, dedicating my free time to the book. I've written a bit this week, and it felt good. Maybe the Florida heat will defrost my frozen creative juices. If nothing else, it will help me recall the summer setting. Although it's hard to believe, summer will be here before I know it, and my false deadline with it. Then I'll be able to put all that media to good use, and use those cards for real.

29 March 2011

Three's Life Plan

Three had all month to work on an extra credit project for science. I offered to help him more than once, but he blew me off. Sunday came, and he realized it was due Monday. We were in the middle of math homework, which we only knew about because we checked the teacher's website. It's odd for Three to have homework assigned over the weekend, unless it's a project. So, even I was surprised. Then I had to get my brain in algebra mode, which takes a few minutes. I was a literature major.

The math was frustrating, so Three gave up on the idea of doing the extra credit. I reminded him of his sub-spectacular science grade. Here is our discussion:

"I don't need the twenty points. It's not like they go to my grade. They only go on a test grade."
"Yes. And that goes toward your cumulative grade."
"So, big deal. My grade will go from a C to a C+. It's all still a C, which is average, you know."
"Yes, I know. And average will get you nowhere."
"It doesn't matter. I'm going to the NBA."
"You may recall, Three, that one can no longer be recruited straight out of high school." (This is known as "The LeBron James Rule.") "I am also pretty sure no one has ever been recruited out of community college."
"I'll go to Community, and then transfer to a good school."
"And how will you get there, if your grades suck?"
"You worry too much, Mom."

At 9:30 PM he realized he needed the extra credit. So, we had to research hurricanes and tornadoes, and draw a floor plan of our house, with highlighted safe zones. We finished at 10:30. The Captain got home from his hockey game, saw us working in the kitchen, and promptly headed for a shower. Better to avoid killing the only one that looks like him.

Today, Three came home, fell asleep on the couch, and started his homework late. But he read ten chapters in a book, finished some computer-based math, and, together, we figured out complex fractions. We felt pretty brilliant.

At 9:30 PM he remembered he had to answer chapter questions. I got to type.
So, clearly, there are still issues. But we're working on it. Usually, late at night.

P.S.: For Chrysanthe, who can't believe the conversations we have here:
"Mom, can  I borrow your computer for Study Island?"
"No, you can use the other laptop. And Three, could you please stop looking at celebrity sex tapes?"
"There was a program that wouldn't close on the computer, and it was some idiot sex tape. Those are loaded with viruses! So, unless you have the $250 to fix the infected computer, could you lay off the skin flicks?!"
"Okay, okay!"
Thanks for the virus tip. That seemed to work better than plain scorn.

28 March 2011

Melancholy Monday

The weekend was different than I planned. Disjointed. Well, that's not accurate. Disappointing? Not exactly, either. Disconnected, perhaps.

The only real plan I had was to attend a Beefsteak/Cabaret dinner on Saturday night. It was a fundraiser for Two's Chorale. The Captain, his parents, and our dear friends, the Tech Grrlz, had reserved seats. The In-Laws had to cancel, because their grandson was playing in his first hockey tournament. It's hard to resist five year-olds on ice, in giant pants and helmets. Then, the Captain and Three's Championship Team pizza party got moved to Saturday night, so he was going to have to leave me at the fundraiser for awhile to go toast the boys.

We were trying to piece it all together, but on Friday, the Grrlz received very upsetting news about the medical condition of one of their friends. She is a young woman with small children, who has already endured, and recovered from a life-threatening illness. I think I have only met their friend twice, but I feel like I know her from a lifetime of conversations I've had with the Grrlz. It is just daunting, and depressing, to think she may have to fight again. I knew they would want to spend time with her, so we cancelled our plans for the fundraiser.

It worked out logistically, because it meant we could go to the pizza party. It was important to the Captain to see the team one last time. Then he and I went for some dessert at the diner, to take advantage of the fact that we had a babysitter. Except the phone kept ringing, because Two was our babysitter, and Four and Five wouldn't go to bed for him. So, we went home, put kids to bed, and watched a movie on the couch, instead of at the theatre.

Sunday, I ran all day long. I dropped Five at CCD, and went to Walmart and Home Depot. I picked him up, unloaded Walmart, and brought Three back for his CCD, during which time I went to Costco. I went home, unloaded Costco, and picked up Two to bring him to confirmation class. Then I did Target, the grocery store, and the pharmacy. The Grrlz came by for dinner, which was great, but they looked as exhausted as I felt. I think the news about their friend added to a general melancholia I've been battling.

The Captain had a hockey game tonight, so we ate an early dinner before he flew out the door. I haven't really spent much time with him lately, and I think that's why I feel so adrift. It wasn't the crazy, ever-shifting Saturday that had me so out-of-sorts. It's that I've been untethered from my anchors. I enjoy my time alone, but when I am gone too long from the family-physically or mentally-I suffer for it. I like to say they're going to be the death of me, but in reality, they are my lifebuoys.

Please keep a good thought for the Grrlz' friend. She doesn't know us, but maybe we can be her buoys, too.

26 March 2011

Saturday Snapshots

It's time to visually review our week. As you all know, I was so happy for the advent of Spring.
Here is the first day. And the day after. And the day after that.

This is what I have looked like since November. This is a rueful smile, not a happy one. I loved this hat when I bought it. Now I plan to burn it.

The garden gnome is prepared for any threat that may come his way, including bad weather.

The last of the Thin Mints. We are waiting on our cookie connection.

The sorry substitute, until we make the connection.

The reason I don't let Five eat Oreos in the playroom. I found this UNDER the art desk. The dog cannot believe he didn't spot it first.

Because of all the cookies.

Thanks, as always, for spending time with me. Have a great weekend!

25 March 2011

My Johnson, My Friend

Five cannot keep his hands out of his pants. Whenever I see him these days, he has at least one hand on his penis, and a far-away look on his face. I think, at first, the blank expression was one of mindless joy, brought on by the fondling. Now, I'm a little concerned that the caressing has become so commonplace, he no longer recognizes when he's doing it. I used to ignore it, but now I feel compelled to stop it, for fear of receiving a phone call from the school about "inappropriate touching."

So I started a "hands off" campaign with discreet reminders. I would walk in the playroom, and whisper in Five's ear, "Hands out of your pants, honey." Now, I just yell "Five! Hands!" on my way down the hall. I'm not convinced either approach is effective. I can't get Five to stop touching the stuff that doesn't belong to him, so to forbid him access to that which is rightfully his own is a tough sell.

We've gone through this in some fashion with all the penii. The fascination with the johnson first becomes apparent when they realize they can make it bigger. I call this the "special skin phenomenon." As in, "Your penis has special skin that grows when you touch it, but you have to be GENTLE." Otherwise, they'll yank that pecker off in the name of science.

Later, the discussion evolves, as the boy grows and the penis does not keep pace. I have yet to be proven wrong that puberty will, in fact, arrive and all sorts of things will sprout.

Then we deal with erections. Three recently informed me that, on average, the teenage boy will have an erection every ninety minutes. I love middle school health class. They are even more blase than I about tackling uncomfortable subjects.

I keep talking and talking, even after they tell me to stop. Which happens with Two.

"Oh my God, Mom, I'm not having sex!" has been the refrain.

I tell him I'm happy about that, but someday he will, and I want him to be smart, and kind about that decision. Because it will involve more than just his body parts. I was a teenage girl once, and I know the emotional repercussions of taking that step.

Maybe I should re-think my strategy, and encourage solitary pleasure. Next time I pass Five, I'm not going to say a thing.

24 March 2011

Saboteur Brain

The NECRWA conference is in a few weeks. When I decided to attend, I made a preliminary list of things to do: get a more mature laptop bag (no graffiti and skulls); buy clothes made of material other than velour; find that list of things to bring to a writer's conference; and this:

My weight has been steady for the past two years, but I really want to lose just a little more. I think I have a reasonable expectation for what my weight should be, based on my height and age. I'm not shooting for some crazy, pre-babies goal. I don't even want a toned body. That would require a level of ambition and commitment that has escaped me for...well, my entire life. I just want to schlep less flab when I'm dragging the garbage cans up the driveway.

So, this is a pretty straight-forward message, don't you think? I taped it to the door of the primitive cabinet that serves as my pantry. Pantry is such an inclusive word. This is, more specifically, the cereal and snacks cabinet. It  houses everything salty or sweet. Chips, cookies, crackers, fruit snacks, popcorn-if it tastes good, and requires no refrigeration, it lives in here.

The pantry is the first stop after school for my children and their friends, my father-in-law when he has a chocolate craving, and my brother, whenever he visits.

"We don't have anything like this at our house," he mumbles through a mouth full of cookies.
I don't mind sharing. But I drew the line at the Thin Mints.

So, I posted the sign where it would do the most good. But my brain got confused.  It read the numbers, but misunderstood the required action.

"5 pounds, 10 weeks," it thought. "What does that mean? She practically lives in the kitchen, typing away on her computer. She must want to be closer to the food. Plus, it's winter, and she's always cold. She must want more fat to keep her warm! She wants to GAIN five pounds! No problem!"

Now, to be fair, my brain has some previous experience with compulsive behavior. More than once I've vowed to do the right thing, only to be led down a path of ill-repute, or in this case, high-caloric content. So, I've decided to be more direct, and talk to my brain the same way I talk to the boys.

The fact that it looks like I handled it with greasy hands isn't helping the message. But I'm going to give it a few days and see if it works. Because my next step involves duct tape, and I really don't want to go there.

Is your brain being uncooperative?

23 March 2011

Exciting Eighteen

At some point each day, I wonder what I will post on the blog. I'm not consciously evaluating all happenings for blog-worthiness, but around dinner time I start to worry. Mostly, because I don't really cook dinner. It's more "diner" in my house, due to individual eccentricities, and extracurricular schedules. If you are a good eater with varied tastes, you suffer here. If you like your food previously prepared and heated in some fashion, then you are in the  right place. Anywho, when I am done feeding the pack, I begin reviewing ideas.

Tonight I was going to talk about how my brain is misinterpreting the motivational weight-loss messages I have posted in my kitchen. Then I considered transcribing the inane conversation between Two and Three. But when I signed in to the "Diaries," I saw that I had acquired a new follower! In that joyful moment, all other ideas flew out the window.

I have had an unbalanced number of squares at the bottom of the blog for weeks. Seventeen squares to be exact. I don't dislike odd numbers, but I was beginning to loathe seventeen. I implored family members to recruit someone just to fill in the blank. So, to see the little silhouettes and icons perfectly balanced in their rows stirred my soul.

It may seem a tad overreactive to celebrate eighteen followers, but the moment was about more than adding a box. I remember how excited I was to read Julie's first comment, because it was from someone I didn't know personally. And as each of you have joined in, or read from afar, you've bolstered my dream of writing. It isn't logical that the opinion of strangers would matter more than that of my loved ones, but with each new reader I feel  a deep sense of validation, and obligation. I want to get better, for you.

Today, I joined Twitter. I don't even know how it works, but I signed up because I'm ordering business cards. I think of them more as "calling cards," because I'm not actually in business.  But I am pursuing a career as a writer, in some fashion, so I thought it smart to have a contact card to hand out at the conference. And I want the world to reach me however they can, including Twitter. I told my husband, and he bit his tongue. He supports me wholeheartedly, but the social media thing freaks him out a bit. He's more private than I am, so he worries. He paused after hearing the news, and said, "Now, go finish the book."

I might be putting the horse before the cart, or simply driving the horse insane by taking it down a slew of paths instead of that nice, straight road toward the novel. But I like the exploration, the discovery of all the writing trails. Plus, I have great guides.

Welcome, Number Eighteen, the Great Equalizer: Lydia K.

22 March 2011

Happy Consequences

You know the saying about closed doors and opened windows. I'm not convinced this is always true. Sometimes when a door closes it just stays shut. Then you have to find another prepositional way out. However, I do believe in the ripple effect, the idea that our actions have consequences.

"Consequences" has become a scary word. This probably has something to do with authority figures, and the idea of "appropriate" behavior. But sometimes, there's a happy consequence to an event. This blog is such a thing-the result of a series of cascading decisions made after I received a book from my mother. Who knew a simple gift could have such an impact on my life?

This Saturday, Four had his final basketball game. It was rescheduled from the day our town flooded, and the kids had to be evacuated from their schools. Frankly, I don't know why they couldn't just let the season end, but I'm not the guy in charge.

Four was not in the mood to play. I'd reminded him about the game Friday night, but the cousins were over, he was having fun, and definitely did not get enough sleep. All this combined to create a very obstinate Four.

I got him in the van, but he complained the whole way to the game. I got him out of the van, but he refused to go in the gym. The Captain was the sole coach that day, so I felt like we couldn't abandon him. Only four other boys showed up from our team, so they really needed Four to play. But he was having none of it. He tried to run away, but I just gripped his wrist tighter.

 "Man!" he asked, after a few minutes of struggling, "How did your hands get that strong?"
"You're not my first runner," I answered wearily.
I don't know why I still struggle with his behavior, when I understand the underlying cause. You know, he's AUTISTIC. Really, sometimes I'm the dumb-ass.

It became obvious from the insult-strewn, escalating bad behavior that he wasn't going to change his mind. The Captain didn't want Four's last game to be a horrible experience; we're overjoyed he made it through the season. The other coach agreed to play four-on-four, so our guys could compete. And then, we had the brilliant idea to ask Five if he wanted to fill in. He looked nervous, but I could tell he wanted to try. We went to the bathroom, and he switched shirts with his brother. I kissed him for luck, and went home with Four.

When Five got home, he gave me the play-by-play. He told Dad he was nervous, but wanted to try. He got a pass from Randy, and it hit him right in the chin, but he kept playing! He got another pass, and gave one back! He had a rebound! He shot for a basket, and it almost went in!  On one of his trips past the bench, he yelled to the Captain, "Hey, I don't think I'm doing too bad!"

Five has two more years before he will play on a real team. But this day he played because his brother was unable, played although he was nervous, played despite an injury. And he proved that he is light-years removed from the tremulous boy who first entered school two years ago. I hope he will remember this day as a personal triumph.

For us, it was an unexpected, happy, consequence.

21 March 2011

It's Sprung

Today is the first day of Spring. Of the four seasons we experience here in New Jersey, Spring is my favorite. I love the beginning, because it means, technically, the long, hard winter is done. This does not come with a guarantee of no more snow. I have experienced more than one white Easter in my lifetime. But now, even when if it is still cold, the air has a different smell . It has a hint of water and dirt to it, like Earth is defrosting.

Last week, I noticed the first true signs of Spring aborning. I opened my front door, and scared a chipmunk. Chipmunks hibernate under the stairs that snake up the side of my driveway. Later that evening, I stood outside with the dog and heard the peepers. Frogs. It seems early to hear the frogs, but they start singing in the vernal pools that form as the snow melts. In the late Spring, their chirping combines with the crickets buzzing, and the resultant cacophany drowns out all sounds of civilization. It's a beautiful thing.

The final, truest sign of the new season was the Animal Control truck in my neighborhood. The bears have arisen.

We have quite a few black bears in my neck of the woods, and they, unlike the chipmunks and garter snakes, are not true hibernators. If we have a mild winter, they drift in and out of sleep, occasionally wandering out for something to eat. It's like my dream vacation. But this winter was not mild. Like the rest of us, the bears hunkered down, and are only now emerging. One, Four and Five took the dog for a walk through the neighborhood the other day, and a kind man told them he'd seen a bear wander through his yard. They turned around and came home. It's best to avoid the hungry bears.

The earth is awakening, and renewing itself.  Spring always makes me want to do the same. I get to slough off the sleepy, old me, and think about growing. I am mulling some Megan-improvement projects, to go along with the rest of the Spring cleaning. Hopefully, the work won't prove to be too arduous-more on par with window washing than ditch digging. Necessary, but not back-breaking.

Has Spring arrived for you?

19 March 2011

My Session Timed Out

Normally, I would have Saturday Snapshots. But today, the Tech Grrlz came by and kept my computer busy by fixing my i-Tunes account, Two and Three's internet access, and uploading music onto the Captain's i-Touch. Oh, and they helped Mother-in-Law with her mac. Plus, because they arrived at different times, they both brought desserts. I love the Tech Grrlz.

I wish I had good pictures, or any motivation right now, but wow, what a long day it's been! I might get my act together by Sunday, but if not, I know you'll love me anyway. Sending some of that love back at you, because I have nothing else to offer right now!

18 March 2011

The Play's The Thing

This evening, the Captain and I went to see Two in the high school spring musical. It is a production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Two has one funny line at the beginning of the play, and then performs with the ensemble. I often refer to him as "Jack of all Trades, Master of None," but I'm beginning to think that might be a misnomer. He's really quite the actor.

Two also performed in the fall drama, which was a quirky Tom Stoppard play called  "The Real Inspector Hound." When we met the director at a school event, she told us how impressed she had been with Two's audition. We were surprised, and intrigued. When we saw him on the stage, we understood. It was a small cast, and he had a significant role. His Aunt Janet came to one of the performances, and commented that he and the dear, departed Sean O'Neil were probably the best actors on the stage, because they were really in the scene, communicating, having a conversation.

Tonight I noticed this same ability. I know that Two wishes he had a larger role. But each time he was on stage, he was completely in character, and acting in the moment. He was really commited to the part. I made sure I told him what I had seen, and how I thought he had real talent. He was appreciative of the compliment, and seemed proud of his work.

I consider myself outgoing, and I have no difficulty talking to strangers. But it takes real confidence to get up and perform in front of an audience. I only did it a few times as a teenager, and I remember it as a nerve-wracking experience. Two has no jitters. We've asked him if he gets anxious before an audition, or performance. Nope. He's at ease with himself, and that's a gift, especially for a teenager. It's such a tumultuous time in life. To find something you enjoy doing, that you're good at, can be a lifeline through those murky years.

I know I've commented on Two's slacker tendencies in other areas. But theatre requires real dedication, as an individual, and to the community. I'm grateful he's found a calling. It may not be his life's work, but that's not important. With each performance, he's crafting a better man.

What do you enjoy doing? What do you do well? Is there something that makes you feel satisfyingly whole?

(The Diaries may be my thing).

17 March 2011

Irish/Italian/Dutch/German/English/Polish Eyes Are Smiling

Today is St. Patrick's Day. When I was young, my holiday morning began with a glass of green milk, served in shamrock mugs, and it ended with corned beef and boiled potatoes. My mother is not of Irish descent (she's mostly Dutch), but my father came from two Irish parents. This makes me fifty percent Irish, and fifty percent hodgepodge.

My mother enjoyed celebrating our Irish heritage, and her commitment can be summed up by her children's names: Erin, Megan, Sean, and Kate. Some of those were second choices. "Mavourneen" was considered for my sister Erin, and I was almost "Siobhan." Someone in the family convinced Ma that Siobhan would never, ever get pronounced correctly. That was proven true, back in the day, when folks struggled simply with "Megan."

I don't think I look especially Irish. My sister Erin seems to have inherited most of my father's genes, which seems appropriate, she being named after the homeland, and all. My childrens' genetic disposition is similarly lopsided.  Of the five, four have blue eyes and some version of blonde hair. Only one, Boy Three, has dark hair and eyes. And he looks exactly like the Captain. When he was nine, we found a picture of the Captain at the same age, and held it up to Three's face. The similarity was striking, and a little disconcerting.

The Captain's heritage is fifty percent Italian, and fifty percent eastern European hodgepodge. He is like a chameleon; when he stands next to his mother, he looks completely Italian. When he's near his dad, he looks Polish. It's a fun party game we play.

All of this means that my children are like most of the others in the United States: a mixed bag. I think it's important to know the family tree, as best we can. It makes us feel connected to something greater than our wee selves. Family history places our life in context, and, by comparison,  makes us better appreciate the ease of our modern existence. But our hodgepodge combination has left me ambivalent about celebrating St. Patrick's Day. If your family history is represented by half the settled world, is it fair to celebrate just one corner of it?

We all know that St. Patrick's Day is no longer just a religious holiday. The Captain will spend most of his day avoiding enthusiastic, over-imbibers in New York City. Boy Five will review the success of the leprechaun trap that he built in school. I suppose I could muster the energy to bake something with green icing. But I think I'd rather spend the day talking about my father, Grandpa Leo, the missing link to their Irish heritage. That is a memory worth celebrating.

16 March 2011


It is very late. We played a double-header for the championship. Then I waited 90 minutes for Two to be done with play practice. We just finished his homework. I am tired and want to go to bed, so this is the best I can do.


I promise a better post tomorrow.

Okay, it's tomorrow.

I was going to leave the post as-is, but I wanted to write about what happened yesterday. Not the statistical details; rather, the emotional ones.
The Captain began his day by writing to the head coach of the opposing team. I could paraphrase, but I'll just transcribe:

"A mildly unorthodox request. I'd like 30 seconds to address both teams before tonight's game if you'll give me the courtesy.
No hidden agenda or secret strategy.
I'd like to tell them both how terrific they have played to get this far.
I want to say the team that played better (and perhaps the better team) won the game last night.
That the coaches or refs are not going to win or lose the game for them.
They should be proud of how much they've accomplished. That winning is important, but that winning with sportsmanship is more important.
They are not playing against Randolph or Roxbury - but against their own friends and classmates.
That if the white team wins I can't wait to congratulate them and if we win - can't wait to play game 3.
Anyway - it's what I am going to say to my group. Just to go out, have fun, play hard, and most importantly treat each other with respect."

The opposing coach declined the Captain's offer to speak, but that's what he told Three's team, anyway.

The assistant coach for the "white team", was working in Three's school yesterday. We see him often at sporting events. He's a nice guy. He took a moment to talk to Three about how his own son used to get upset, like Three, when the game got frustrating. Three says he told him, "If you can let all that emotion roll off you, not let it upset you, then you're going to beat us. You're a great player, and when you learn to control your feelings, you're going to be even better." It gave Three a boost, and it was a nice example of good coaching.

For the most part, I think dads become coaches to help their own children. But if you stay a coach, it is because you want to help all the children. It's a volunteer position, and it incurs more wrath than love. You have to gain satisfaction not just in the winning, but in the teaching. Especially as the boys get older, good coaches, or bad, can have a tremendous impact on a young man's life. They can really boost, or degrade, self-esteem.

Three has had both varieties, and the bad coaches have made me seriously consider abandoning team sports. But there is a motivating lesson buried in the wretched experiences, as well. I call it the "Fuck You" lesson, and I got to explain it to Three last fall. It teaches one to take all the negativity, all the doubt, all the criticism from a coach and throw it in their face by succeeding, despite their complete dickiness. It's a precursor to what I learned in adulthood: the "I Don't Need To Be Friends With Everyone" lesson. Three's too young to understand the subtlety of that one, but I did adapt the "Fuck You" for basketball. I told him to imagine all the negative emotion flowing through him, like water through a sieve, so it couldn't slow him down. I told him every time he wanted to get angry about a call, he should laugh instead. During the game, I saw him smiling more times than not on the court, but not just to camouflage his anger. I think he was having a good time.

Last night, everyone was much more relaxed. The parents and coaches were generally well-behaved, and the kids played with less vitriol. Our team won the first game handily, which set up the tie-breaker. All the players were tired (notice the low score), and the final was really decided by free throws. At the end, the handshakes seemed genuine, and, although the white team was understandably disappointed, no one was angry. Neither one of the teams was top-seeded in the tournament, so it was a testament to their hard work that they each made it to the final. I was proud of our guys, especially Three and my Captain. And, a little bit of my faith in team sports was restored.

15 March 2011

Stupid Game

I am not particularly competitive. I want to be successful at my job(s), but I don't really care if you're more adept at them. I didn't play sports when I was young, with the exception of a few years of field hockey, and a stint as a cheerleader in high school. I was a decent flutist, but a fairly lackluster drum majorette. I was involved in a lot of different activities, but never really excelled at one particular thing. I was like Two, but with better grades.

The Captain is very competitive. He plays Men's League hockey, and every season they have play-offs. His team always makes it to the championship game, which they lose. It is like the Stanley Cup finals each and every time. Emotions run ridiculously high. This happens THREE TIMES A YEAR. Each time they lose, I try to be supportive, because I would like them to win. But, seriously; it's Men's League.  If he loses, he still gets to go play the next week. 

He is similarly programmed when playing golf. You would think he was a tour pro, judging by his reaction to a bad score. Likewise, he can't believe it when he doesn't bowl a strike every single time he chucks the ball down the lane. He would also prefer to beat the children at video games, but I think he's accepted that he just doesn't have an advantage there.

We are different. But the Captain and Three are alike. Three is very competitive, but without the Captain's work ethic. Three is naturally athletic, but doesn't really like to practice, or take direction from a coach, if he can help it. It's a destructive blend of insecurity and ability. He doesn't want anyone to point out his faults, and he often has just enough talent to pull it off. But sometimes that's not enough in a clutch situation.

Tonight, Three's basketball team played the first game in a best-of-three championship series. Personally, I think the fact that they made it this far is pretty amazing. They've improved as the season progressed, individually, and as a team. The Captain is the assistant coach. He wasn't going to do it this year, but he and Three agreed they could treat each other as coach and player, and leave out the messy familial stuff. They've been fairly successful, except for the times that Three has lost his mind.

There are rules in rec league. A player cannot question the referees; he cannot curse; he must exhibit good sportsmanship. In the past two games, Three has broken all of these rules.

Part of the problem is raging hormones. Thirteen and fourteen year-old boys are roiling cauldrons of emotion, most of it potentially violent. The other factor is that thirteen and fourteen year-old boys are insecure dickheads, who will cut down their friends to escape their own feelings of inadequacy. So, all day long the opposing teams talked trash at one another in school. They also texted trash. And then some of Three's "friends" showed up to cheer against him, because they told him he's a braggart and a sore loser. So, Three lost his shit. He flipped off  his friend on the other team. He complained about calls. His coaches told him, forcefully, to get his act together, and he sulked. Mostly, he tried not to cry. And he wasn't very successful at that, either.

His team lost by two points. His head coach lost his mind with the referees, over uncalled fouls. Kids on both teams were visibly upset. Now we get to go back tomorrow and play again. Yay.

Three came in while I was writing this to tell me he had texted his friend on the other team to apologize. I am encouraged. I reminded him that he is on a team, but each person is responsible for his own behavior. We had a good discussion about not letting other people bother him, because then he's not playing his best. We talked about how winning is not as important as friendship.

These are important life skills he needs to learn, even if it is during a stupid game.

14 March 2011

The Singular One

Boy One turned eighteen on Saturday. I'm not sure how this happened, because I still feel 28. We had some family over for dinner and cake, and everyone was equally stunned at how quickly the time had passed. One is not often the center of attention. He doesn't play sports, or perform in school plays, so I think he enjoyed having a moment in the sun.

On birthdays, I usually recount the guest of honor's birth story. Hands down, One has the most remarkable tale. So, to honor this momentous occasion, I will share some details.

I awoke in the middle of the night, at the beginning of labor. I waited to call the doctor, and headed to the hospital about two hours later. Labor was progressing, but One wasn't responding the way we wanted. Specifically, his  heart rate was dropping during contractions, when it should have been increasing. He was in distress, and it was decided that we would deliver him via cesarean section. (Side note to doctors: don't promise a woman in active labor that the anesthesiologist will arrive at 1:00, if he is not going to be there AT ONE O'CLOCK!)

I got wheeled into the operating room, and the Captain sat next to me. At 2:32 PM, our first boy was born. He sounded great, lots of gutsy crying, so they cleaned him up, and whisked him away. I stayed behind to get stitched, and then went off to the recovery room, where I did my best to scare the nurses with my plummeting blood pressure.

During that time, it became clear that One had issues. He was having episodes of apnea. They could massage him to get him breathing again, but the episodes continued. They thought he was having seizures. They did a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. They were stumped, and the hospital lacked a neonatal intensive care unit. He would have to be transported to a nearby hospital that had the proper doctors and equipment.

I was lying flat in bed, so they wheeled him in, in his isolette, so I could see him. They left me with a Polaroid picture of him, that I taped to the bed rail. My husband had a difficult decision to make. He was concerned for me, because I had just had surgery. He was concerned for the baby, but it was snowing heavily.  If he went with the baby, he might not get back to me. He chose to stay.

It snowed, and snowed, and snowed. And then it snowed some more, up and down the eastern seaboard, just to make it into the record books. The Captain was trapped with me for two days, while we waited for a diagnosis. Finally, he dug the car out of three feet of snow, and went to see One. It had been difficult to get technicians into the hospital to perform tests, so the neonatologists were considering two possible diagnoses.  The first was that One had a massive brain tumor. The second, more remote possibility, was that he had suffered a prenatal myocardial infarction: a stroke, in utero.

After five days in the hospital, I was released, and went to see my baby. He was hooked up to monitors, and drugged to the gills to prevent seizures. But he was stable, and they let me hold him for a long time. A pediatric neurologist had looked at his MRI, and confirmed the stroke diagnosis. It was difficult to hear, and accept. But we looked around the nursery, at all the babies struggling, and we were thankful.

And now, our baby is eighteen. There have been many challenges through the years, and more await us. But I reached up to hug him yesterday, and I was thankful. We are blessed to have him in our lives.

12 March 2011

Saturday Snapshots

There is nothing wrong with me. I went to the doctor, and he found me unremarkable. This is a good thing, medically-speaking, and the predicted diagnosis. Specifically, my symptoms point to nothing more than a virus. So, I get to take some over-the-counter Prilosec, and I should try and reduce my stress. Ha ha ha ha ha! That reminded me of Chrysanthe's pleasant suggestion from yesterday, wherein I relax and let everyone take care of me. Ah, 'tis a lovely dream.  Here is what the upcoming week looks like:

Remember how I said I was trying to be more organized? This is the current system, which was actually off-line for most of the winter, because the white boards warped from the constant heat spewing from the baseboard. I hung the horseshoes this way to keep the good luck in, but a friend said they should go the other way, to push the evil down. Who knows? No, really-who among you has an opinion?

My secret weapon against the stress.

The all-season tree! It has been de-Valentined, and awaits the Spring motif.

Lastly, perhaps you remember the post about the Captain's birthday. In it, I reprinted a letter, as per the request of my friend Maccabee. He had offered $100 for the pleasure of reading it again. True to his word, I received a check in the mail. Silly man. However, I always tell the boys not to make foolish bets, because they might have to pay up. So, I'm cashing the check, and donating the money to charity. Maccabee has a boxer, also one of the Captain's favorite breeds, so some of the proceeds will go to this organization:

Believing in Big Love means being a steward of the earth, and all the creatures upon it.

Thanks for another great week, all. I'm mulling an idea for stress-free Sunday posting, so that the Lone Woman is never lonely. But for now, enjoy your weekend, and we'll talk on Monday!

11 March 2011

If There Are Typos, It's Because I Was Sleeping

Hello, gentle readers. The Lone Woman is mysteriously ill. Or, perhaps, I am felled by a mysterious illness? Either way, this will be a lame post.

Not to be all whiny about it, because that's Five's job, but I'm just not myself. I've had  low level stomach pain for a week now, a rash has bloomed on my face, and I'm exhausted. No; more than my usual exhaustion. Fall asleep behind the wheel, or whilst typing, exhausted. Today, I laid down on my bed fifteen minutes before I had to get Five from his bus, and I awoke to the doorbell ringing. My neighbor had been kind enough to get him and drive him home. It's not good, people.

So, I have an appointment with the doctor. It takes a lot to get me to the doctor. And, I'll admit, the rash freaked me out almost more than the narcolepsy. My face is old skin, but it's good skin. I don't break out, and it's relatively wrinkle-free. I'm afraid the doctor will diagnose it as something benign, like rosacea, because my skin is also Irish, and pale. And all the other symptoms will just be viral. Which is why it's annoying, and a little disappointing to go to the doctor. I don't really want a serious illness, and I'm happy to feel better than Lora, but it's hardly worth the trip for something picayune.

I just spent the last half-hour sleeping through the end of "Castle," so now I'm off to bed for more of the same. I'll let you know how it all turns out. I've most likely got a case of old-chick-itis, or worse, peri-menopause. If that's true, you may not hear from me for a few days. I'll be in bed, crying.

10 March 2011

Lent, Love, and Inspiration

We are now in the Lenten season. The Captain is Catholic, and got to visit St. Patrick's Cathedral for his ashes, because it's down the block from his office. I was a little jealous, because it's quite a beautiful church. We're raising the boys as Catholics, but I'm Presbyterian. Mind you, I haven't attended a Protestant church in years, but it's still how I identify myself. Those early imprints are hard to change.

Only once have I ever considered converting to Catholicism, and it was because of the boys. Two got up to receive communion, and said "Come on, Mom," but I told him I couldn't go, because I'm not Catholic. It's a flaw in the doctrine. Now I get up and walk up with the younger guys, so they can get a blessing. The first time I did it, the priest went to offer the host, but I said, "Just a blessing, Father." Then he wrangled me in the lobby, and asked, "When are you going to become one of us?"  I smiled, but lately, Buddhism speaks to me, so I don't see conversion in the cards.

I do think religious education is important, for both intellectual and spiritual reasons. I think a sense of wonder and faith are important tools in our daily lives. I think one should understand the history and basic tenets of their own faith, and, hopefully, others as well. I think there is more that connects us in this world, than that which divides us. Heck, Judaism and Islam started in the same family. Literally.

I reminded my children about Lent. They started thinking about what they had to give up, like chocolate. I explained that Lent is really about reflecting on what we can do to become better people, to be more patient, more forgiving, more accepting. To Love More.  No matter what they decide to believe as adults, this is the one thing I want them to remember, and strive to do.

I'm not always conciously trying to improve myself, but there are times when an issue arises, and I get a real "opportunity" to do some work. I'm in one of those periods. And I've derived real inspiration from a variety of sources, most interestingly from our friend Julie, who shares a daily card reading on her blog.

I think talking about religion makes a lot of people nervous. Either we don't want to offend, or we only notice our differences. But I'm all about what unites us. I believe in God, Jesus, the Universe, Buddha, and Muhammed, because I think it's all the same message. I believe in Big Love. I don't know what you believe, but I feel your love every day, which is why I believe.

Sending some love and inspiration your way now....

09 March 2011

Life Skill-less

We went out to dinner with family and friends to celebrate the Captain's birthday. It was a lovely meal, start to finish, but I was tired when I got home. I'd spent the early part of the evening having a minor freak-out session concerning Two's research paper, and it left me depleted. I wasn't even really upset with Two, other than the usual "what do you mean you don't remember how she explained it?"  Because I couldn't understand the requirements, either.

We enlisted the smarter brains among us to try and figure it out, and ended up with a reasonable thesis that I emailed to the teacher, to see if we were on the right track. She was kind enough to answer me at 6:35 on a Sunday morning, so I let go of some of my resentment toward her. We are now on pace to complete it correctly. And by "we," I truly mean Two and I. We're doing it together, because his skills are lacking, and I don't want the kid to fail anymore. After this paper, at least he'll have an inkling, and can go out on his own.

I understand I've failed thus far in making my boys independent. I don't know if it stems from  having done so much for One, because of his physical and cognitive challenges, but I've been a straight-up careGIVER for all the rest of them as well.  It's left them with the lifeskills of mewling, newborn moles. I know I have to stop doing everything for them, but it's hard when it's faster that way.

We left the teenagers in charge of the little people while we were at dinner.  For reasons unknown, Four and Five go to bed without histrionics when Two is calling the shots. Perhaps he threatens bodily harm. I don't want to question it, because he's my babysitter-in-residence. I need him.

So, as mentioned, I was tired when I got home from the restaurant, and basically went straight to sleep. The next morning I went to check on Two and Three, to make sure they were actually in their beds. It's not that I anticipate them climbing out their bedroom window to sneak away with friends. It's more likely that I'll find Three asleep in front of a television, wasting my electricity.

I opened the door and found Three asleep on top of his comforter, with a throw blanket keeping him warm. I didn't understand why, until I looked over at Two, who was under his comforter, asleep on his mattress cover. I had stripped the beds, and hadn't replaced the sheets. And rather than get a new set, they had each chosen to sleep on the unmade beds. Many hours later, I woke Two and asked him why he didn't make his bed.

"It was late, and I like the way this feels," he answered, rubbing the mattress cover.
"That's nice," I answered sarcastically, "but you can save the passed-out-on-the-unmade-bed-motif for college. If you make it there."

I need to get busy with some home-schooling. Because if this is an example of their ability to reason, we're all screwed.

08 March 2011

We Are All Wonder Woman

I changed my blog description. I rather enjoyed my quip about tantrums, teenagers, and body sprays, but truth is, I haven't even mentioned Three's ridiculous over-usage of AXE. Good Lord, it's awful. I make him spray it in his room with the door closed, preferably with a window open. Then he must quickly exit, pulling the door behind him. In the summer, I make him apply it outside the house. Two has moved on to a more sophisticated scent, so I have fewer complaints about him. All in all, that's it for the body sprays.

I started the blog as a way to share about my life with all these men, little and grown.  It is about the struggles, and triumphs, of being a mother. It is about my personal aspirations. It is about my children with special needs. So, I thought it more apt to include that in the description. Also, I wanted to use the word "plethora." Of course,  when I wrote the original, I worried that folks might think I over-use body sprays, so now they may think I have special needs. Well, that's not too far from the truth.

I'm not sure if the description change will attract other readers with special needs children. That would be great, as long as they aren't expecting any answers. I'm certainly not an expert in either parenting or special needs. I'm just moving forward and doing my best, which is sometimes only fair to middling.

My aunt just sent me a Wonder Woman bracelet. She said it represents what she thinks of me. It was a lovely gesture on her part, and I think I will wear it when I feel particularly challenged. But I am no Amazonian princess.

And that's my message, if I have one. We're not perfect. Come commiserate. Share your triumphs and failures. You're not alone. Even if you are Lone.

07 March 2011

Trying to Fill the Cavity of Anxiety

I took Five to the dentist on Friday. We've spoken about Five's nervous nature, which is really just a polite way of saying that kid's got the anxiety gene, and it's just a matter of time before he goes on medication.  We've known this about him since kindergarten, when he used to come home upset because his teacher had yelled at him for not finishing his work. We've known Mrs. N for ten years, and not once have I heard her raise her voice above a pleasant, lulling, tone. So, we had an inkling his emotional perception might be a little  off. But he's gotten better since kindergarten, so we haven't given up hope that we might avoid some of the issues we've previously encountered with One, or Three.

Five has a cavity. It's a tiny one, on the side of a molar he will  not lose for about another three or four years. We figured we'd fill it, so the tooth wouldn't cause him any pain. He was fairly accepting about what was going to happen, and we both agreed that he should be "asleep" for the process. Afterward, we would go to Walgreen's and look for a new Beanie Boo, as a reward. When we got him in the chair, the first thing he noticed was the tray of medical instruments behind him. Yes, the kid-friendly dental office, with it's jungle motif, and walls covered with pictures of puppies and bunnies, didn't think it smart to cover the tray of needles and metallic instruments of torture. We were not off to a good start.

The young, female dentist came in and showed Five a picture of his cavity, and asked him what flavor he wanted for his laughing gas. He didn't really understand, so she showed him the "elephant nose" he would wear to inhale the chocolate scented gas. She went to put the mask on him, and he hopped up right out of that chair and ran to the opposite side of the room. It takes a minute for the chocolate scent to pump through the mask, and that was just enough time for the claustrophobia to take effect.

Have you ever seen someone have a panic attack? I'm sure they're different for everyone, but Five's looked a lot like Three's. I used to have to drag Three from the car to get him to go to school, and finally, it just became impossible, because that adrenaline would get flowing, and he was super-human strong. It was amped avoidance.

Poor Five was across the room, saying "Wait, wait, wait, I just need to..." and then he noticed a scale, "weigh Bamboo before I can sit down." Anything to delay what was going to happen. At that point I knew it was a lost cause, because he'd become irrational. I had to pick him up to get him back in the chair, and I brought the scale with me so he could weigh Bamboo in his lap, but as soon as that mask came back around, he twisted and buried his face in my chest.

The dentist asked if Five might respond better to  Dr. M, the male dentist. But this is the kid that thought Mrs. N, "The Kindergarten Whisperer," was yelling, so I didn't think Dr. M's authoritarianism was going to get the job done.
"Is he often like this?" she asked.
"Well, getting him here is always a challenge," I answered.
"Does his nervousness affect his schooling?"
"Yes, but he's getting better."
"Because if it's affecting him in school, you might want to talk to his pediatrician," she offered.
"Oh, she knows," I said. "We're just waiting to see how it all turns out."
In the end, we decided one little cavity wasn't worth the pain and suffering. If it gets huge, we'll yank it. Under sedation. If it doesn't bother him, eventually that sucker is going to fall out anyway.

When Five got in the van he asked if we were going to Walgreen's. I reminded him that he didn't actually have the cavity filled, which was our deal.
"But at least I was brave, and came here without crying," he said.
"True that," I answered.
He has made progress. We set off to buy Clover. Maybe we don't know how it's going to turn out, after all.

05 March 2011

Saturday Snapshots

I miss you guys on the weekend.  But I really don't have the wherewithal to write every single day of the week. However, I feel I must give you something to look at on Saturday and Sunday, instead of stale Failures. So here is my idea. On Saturdays I will post some pictures about the things I talk about. Not the kids, of course. I might post pictures of parts of them (not those parts), but perhaps Five's eternally furrowed brow, or Four's kissy lips. But just for today, here's what I have:

This is the beloved Grover, and some of Five's new favorites. Left to right: Bamboo, Clover, Grover, Coconut, and Slush. These are the new Beanie Boos, bug-eyed relatives of Beanie Babies. Apparently, they come pre-programmed to spring a leak as soon as purchased, because I have already sewn three out of four of them (hang tough, Bamboo!).

These are Bakugan and Beyblades. The Bakugan start off as balls, but when they touch metal, they open up into cool creatures. The Beyblades are battle tops, played in an arena.

This is the boys' bathroom light above their sink. I went in there today and found that a tall person had been having fun with a Bakugan.

This is the Big Bed. I get to snuggle in the valley between the mattresses.

The Tingler. I tried to get a picture of it on Three's head, but he was already asleep. It looks painful, but it's oh so good.

Last week's breakfast run. I love Costco and Walmart. This lasts about two weeks.

And finally...
Our new pet, if Five has anything to say about it.
Then, we're moving on to pandas.

Have a great Saturday everyone!

04 March 2011

Five: Friend of the Endangered!

I pick Five up from the bus stop, and wait as he kicks all the frozen snow mounds, checking for signs of melting. I ask how his day was, and he says, "Great. But there's a rodent problem."

"You have a rodent problem at school?" I ask, somewhat horrified.

"No. Chinchillas are endangered."

"Oh. I didn't know that. It's probably because they were hunted for their fur."


"For coats."

"Oh. Well," he continues, "there's only one population group remaining, and after they die, that's it for the chinchillas. So, I'm going to re-populate the chinchillas. I'm going to go to PetSmart and buy one at a time. They're, like, 153 dollars, and I'm going to get a mom and a dad, and then, boom boom, pow, they'll have babies, and I'm going to distribute them to North America and Africa."

"Are they native to Africa?"

"No! But I'm going to put them there anyway, and after I solve the chinchilla problem, I'm moving on to the pandas. Whaddya say, Mom, are you with me?"

"I don't know that I can sign up to raise chinchillas, Five. They're kind of mean."

"But they're so cute!" he says, climbing out of the van. "I think you should help me. I don't think you want me to be sad about the extinct chinchillas, do you, Mom?" he yells, as I enter the house.

"We'll see."

"Can I have a butter sandwich?" he asks, following me into the kitchen. "Okay, because after the chinchillas and the pandas, I'm  going to work on the American crocodiles."

"Are crocodiles endangered?"

"Yes, the American ones are!"

"I'm not raising crocodiles."

"Hey," he says, looking outside at the many trees in the backyard, "do you think chinchillas like acorns? I need two knives full of butter, Mom, on both sides of the bread."

"Yes. I know. Now, cut in half, or whole?"


He sits and eats his butter sandwich, because a conservationist needs a steady diet of carbs and fat. At least it's whole wheat bread.

"Hey, Four!" he yells, getting up from the table. "Do you want to help me with my rodent problem?"

I think he needs to revise his sales pitch.

03 March 2011

Is That Appropriate?

I am fascinated by Five's use of the word "appropriate." He is in first grade, and has been learning about "appropriate" behavior since pre-school. If a new show is debuting on Nickelodeon, he will ask me if it is "appropriate." He rats out his brother for his "inappropriate" behavior at tae kwon do. He will tell me if his group did not earn all their stars because a classmate was acting "inappropriate."

I enjoy hearing small humans say big words. I remember a barbecue years ago, when a friend's toddler asked for "more cantaloupe."  My boy at that time could barely say "Mom," so I was very impressed. But I am ambivalent about the focus on "appropriate."  I like that children are no longer being told they are "bad." But I worry about who is determining what is "appropriate."

Recently, I had a discussion with Three about his grades. He was complaining about his teacher, suggesting that she was crazy, and therefore, her judgment of him should be disregarded. I know this teacher, and he's not that far off base. However, one cannot use that as an excuse to do poorly  in school. One must understand what the teacher wants from her students, and give it to her. It is a life lesson in how to succeed- in school, in business, in marriage if necessary.

I'm pretty sure Three has been labeled a problem student. He dances along the edge of  the autism spectrum in relation to his ability to read social clues. We've discussed his self-centered world view. When his teachers communicate with me, their concerns usually center on his inability to make "appropriate choices."  He can be distracted and chatty in class. He's fooling around in the halls with his friends. He and his friend were sent to the principal to discuss the hazards of throwing one's lunchbox across the soccer field, etc. etc.

I tried to get him to understand how middle school works.
"Three, who is the teacher that complains the most about your behavior?"
"Mrs. Smith."
"Who is the teacher that continually separates you and your friends?"
"Mrs. Jones."
"Who is the teacher that likes you the most?"
"Mr. Lincoln."
"Who is your second most-favorite teacher?"
"Mr. Washington."
"Do you see a pattern here?"
"Uh, I like the guy teachers better?"
"Yes! And they like you better. Teaching is a female-dominated profession, Three. And maybe some of these female teachers don't really understand guy behavior. So, it's up to you to give them what they want. Because they aren't going to change."

Now, I know that there are many, many skilled teachers in the world who can recognize differences in gender behavior and not label. I also know that when I go to a holiday concert at Four's special-education school, 85% of the population is male. I'm just saying there might be a slight bias against the penis-endowed. Either way, Three needs to learn what society considers appropriate behavior. He will be judged on it for the rest of his life.

Now I'm off to bed with the Captain, so I can give him his special birthday present. I'm sorry. Was that inappropriate?

02 March 2011

Happy Birthday, Regular Guy

Today is one of the happiest days of the year. Today is the Captain's birthday. More importantly, this is the day when the Captain is, once again, the same age as moi.

I was born on December 16, 1964. The Captain was born March 2, 1965. 

I will pause while you make a notation in your datebook.

Okay! So this, technically, makes me the last of the Baby Boomers, and the Captain a ....I don't know what.

I will pause while I Google.

Okay! From Wikipedia:

The term Generation X was used in a 1964 study of British youth by Jane Deverson. Deverson was asked by Woman's Own magazine to interview teenagers of the time. The study revealed a generation of teenagers who "sleep together before they are married, were not taught to believe in God as 'much', dislike the Queen, and don't respect parents." Because of these controversial findings, the piece was deemed unsuitable for the magazine. Deverson, in an attempt to save her research, worked with Hollywood correspondent Charles Hamblett to create a book about the study. Hamblett decided to name it Generation X.[8]
The term was popularized by Canadian author Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, concerning young adults during the late 1980s and their lifestyles. While Coupland's book helped to popularize the phrase "Generation X," in a 1989 magazine article[9] he erroneously attributed the term to English musician Billy Idol. In fact, Idol had been a member of the punk band Generation X from 1976–1981, which was named after Deverson and Hamblett's 1965 sociology book—a copy of which was owned by Idol's mother.

The irony here is that I am much more a Gen-X-er, and the Captain is definitely a Boomer. He is loyal, and hard-working. He believes in personal responsibility, and giving your best effort. When we met, I was a punker/gothy girl, who listened to Billy Idol, had sex before marriage, and didn't like the Queen. Well, our government, anyway. The Queen seems fairly harmless, and rather strong, what with surviving the blitz and all those crazy family members.

 A few weeks ago, our friend, Maccabee, asked for a quote from a famous letter my brother read at my wedding. I sent it to him shortly after I met the Captain. So, today, to honor the man who has spent the last 25 years being three months younger than me, I give you a glimpse of the beginning.

Dear Brother:

Life alternates between being terrifically boring, and too weird. I'm involved, I guess. With a brother from the house. (Author's note: We were in a co-ed fraternity together) He's really regular. Played ice hockey most of his life. Plays air hockey and beer pong most of his life now. He's like someone I would have dated in high school: normal hair, and listens to 92K-Rock. Can you believe it?

He thinks I'm interesting, and would like to sleep with me. It's pretty convenient, and I'm pretty much assured of the fact that he'll never come over my house and bug me.

So much for  romance.

So, ours is an "opposites attract" love story. And the reason I am writing a romance novel. Because no one who knew us believed we would stay together. But today is another birthday, and another year together!

I know the Captain is no more happy about getting older than I am. But I can say, without hesitation, that I am happy to grow older with him.

Especially when we're the same age again.

01 March 2011

There, But For The Grace of God, Go I

Today we went to Sean's funeral. The Captain took the day off from work to be with me and Two. We had to be at the church at 8:30 so Two could warm up with his choral group, so I was happy for the Captain's help in getting everyone else off to school. My normal day begins at six a.m., and I roll people onto buses at 6:55, 7:05, 7:35, 8:12, and 8:38. So it was tricky trying to find a time to shower and throw on appropriate clothing, without tipping off the younger people about where I was going. Yes, I had to lie about attending a funeral.

Four and Five were having a discussion Friday night about how there were only two days off before school on Monday. Five said, "Thanks a lot, Four, you just reminded me I have to go to the dentist on Monday to have my cavity filled."
"No you don't," I said. "I moved your appointment to Friday."
"Really? Why?"
"Because I have to go to a funeral on Monday."
"Whose funeral?" asked Four.
"Two's friend, Sean," I replied.
"Oh," said Five, "can we go?"

I was caught completely off-guard. Normally, I am adept at handling the various flavors of crazy in our house.  I am very aware of trigger words that will either encourage or deter behavior. For instance, if Four has a scheduled day off, I do not mention it, unless Five actually notices that his brother has not left for school. Then I lie, and say he has a delayed opening, or Five will pout and demand to stay home as well. I know which child needs weeks of preparation for an event, and which one is better with no extra time for fretting. Perhaps because it was a new topic, I had no stock answer to deter funeral attendance.

"No," I answered, in a firm tone designed to discourage further discussion.
"Why not?" asked Four. "I've never been to a funeral. And we want to support our brother."
He actually said that. And he meant it, because they've been very sweet to Two. So, I had to come up with a credible reason why they could not attend. I started with how it was only for adults.
"But if Two is going," said Five, "he's a teenager, so don't even tell me it's only for adults."
Damn Five and his deductive reasoning.

I finished the discussion by saying we weren't really invited by the family, and the only reason we were going was because Two had to sing. Four and Five grumbled, and then I was saved by Five's virus. Apparently, puking for two days made him forget about the funeral. Just to be safe, I made the Captain lie, and tell Five he was home this morning because I had to drive him to a meeting.

Sean's mother stood up at the Mass and read from his National Honor Society application essay. It was a poignant reminder of all that he had accomplished in his young life, and all that will be missing from the world in his absence. We all wept for her loss, and ours. 

The chorale sang "On Eagle's Wings," and I could hear Two's voice in the crowd. I can always hear him, even though his is one voice among fifty. I hoped it worked that way with God, that He could hear the cries of two bereaved parents in the world, and bring them solace.

And then I asked Him to watch over my children, because I think he knows their quirks, and loves them anyway. Like I do.